Person marking in Ja’a Kumiai (Yuman)*

AMERINDIA 42: 23-47, 2020

University of California, San Diego


Abstract: Kumiai language varieties (Yuman; Mexico/USA) have been documented to
possess complex person marking systems, with portmanteau markers for transitive verbs
and a high degree of optionality and variability in terms of their morphophonological
realization. This variation in person marking realization has been attributed to various
factors, including patterns of language attrition and contact. Based on original field
research data, this paper provides a compositional analysis of the person marking system
of Ja’a Kumiai, where general phonological constraints may lead to the reduction or loss
of morphological contrasts. Person marking is thus neither optional nor undergoing
erosion; homophony in verbal paradigms results instead from systematic structural
principles. We also show that agreement in this language involves an inverse/direct
contrast, a type of system not previously described in the Yuman language family.